Malawi to ban tobacco labour tenancy system -Minister

Minister of Labour and Manpower Development, Henry Mussa, on Tuesday disclosed that Government has activated plans to ban tenancy system in Malawi as way of addressing problems which tenants experience in the hands of the tobacco estate owners.

Mussa: Tenancy labour to be abolished

Mussa: Tenancy labour to be abolished

Ngeyi Kanyongolo:

Ngeyi Kanyongolo: Tenant labour is harsh

The tobacco tenancy system in Malawi is partly responsible for child labour and poor working conditions.

Briefing journalists in Lilongwe, Mussa said government intends to ban tenancy in Malawi following extensive consultations which were done last year supported by study which was done national wide with support from International Labour Organization (ILO).

Mussa disclosed to the press that draft Employment Amendment Bill is currently at Cabinet Committee stage and that it shall be tabled at Cabinet once approved.

The minister was however quick to appeal to all Malawians and development partners to render support to government in order to ensure that any possible adverse effects that abolition of the tenancy labour system may bring, are kept to a minimum.

“Tenants deserve to enjoy their labour and human rights just like any other person,” said Mussa.

Mussa said the bill is expected to be passed before the end of this year.

The Minister said consultations which the Ministry undertook showed that Malawians agree that tenancy labour system is bad and therefore the divergent views held on the tenancy labour system by stakeholders is evidence enough that any effort to regulate tenancy labour is bound to
pose serious implementation challenges.

One of Malawi’s social Catholic arm, Centre for Social Concern (CFSC) recently conducted research where it unearthed that tenants are facing numerous callenges in Malawi.

CFSC made various recommendations to government following the study.

Some of the recommendations include that the country must standardize the tenancy labour contract with a framework that promotes the personal development of the tenancy labour worker and the estate owner.

“There must be mechanisms that grant a win-win situation instead of the current zero-sum game, highly skewed in favour of the estate owners.”

CFSC also recommended quick adoption of the Tenancy Labour Bill as subsidiary to current labour legal regimes in such a way that adequately provides for the regulation of the tenancy labour and the adjudication of disputes between tenants and estate-owners

The report also recommended  immediate intervention of institutions such as Tobacco Association of Malawi, that  government must provide basic terms of the tenancy labour contract between estate owners and tenants.

ILO senior standards specialist, Christina Holmgren, said it is high time Malawi took tangible steps in the issue of tobacco tenancy system which has been outstanding for the past 20 years.

Holmgren said ILO would like to see Malawi taking steps in dealing with the issue although she said the actual abolishment may not be immediate considering the future welfare of the tenants after losing their jobs in the plantations.

“One step at a time, no matter how small it is, but this issue has to be dealt with. We cannot continue talking about the plight of tenants and the poor conditions they are exposed to if we are not ready to start taking tangible actions about it,” said Holmgren.

Chancellor College lecturer, Ngeyi Kanyongolo – who was one of the consultants in the ILO research and production of the report, revealed during a presentation that tenants in tobacco estates don’t usually sign employment contracts and are subjected to the poorest working conditions.

“They live in overcrowded housing, with 19.4 percent of tenants staying in houses where over seven people use one room for sleeping. The whole tenant family is involved in tobacco production, where the husband is enrolled but his wife and children work without pay,” said Kanyongolo.

Forced labour, child labour, discrimination against women and in some cases serious violations of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights are some of the challenges tenants in Malawi continue to face.

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Jelbin Mk

Ooo Mr mussa because you bought those tractors from Malawi government you think all people can use tractors?? U must be very stupid to think that banning the practice will help solve the problem to the contrary this will escalate the problem because this will take food away from tenants’ tables. This government is really crueless why can’t it put laws in place to protect tenants???? No wondet our country is heading astray economically.


A chilungamo, kunyadira utenant kumeneko?
Better know that 90%+ of those houses in btyre belong to tumbukas and even if they’ve to be forced to sell you tenants cant even buy them.
Basi munthu kumakula ambition ndizakhale Tenant?


Taonani Kaye ma Industries run by Asian communities. Mukuthamanga kwambiri kupha ma Industry anu kuti Asian community akhale akulemelerabe. A Mussa, ncthito mukuneneyi iribe phindu kwa Mmalawi chifukwa mukugula fodya wake pamtengo wa zii. Mukungotaya nthawi yanu. Forex yomwe imathandizayi idzasowa. Amwenye atabisa ndalama. Tiyenazoni anzeru ndinu.


Yes 99% are the Southerners because you Chewas and Tumbukas are lazy people. You prefer migrating to South Africa leaving your dead North. The Southerners once they do the Tenancy, they go to their homes and develop. Tell me which Chewa farmer has a beautiful house let alone a decent gear? You find a car packed outside a shack!


Why not improve the conditions of tenancy and institute a law that protects the tenants instead of just banning the system outright? We need to look at the pros and cons of such a decision.


what do you think all those tennants will be doing after banning tennancy system? hundreds of thousands of them? majority being seasonal migrators from the south? have u planned to give them alternive employment or activities?
i have a feeling this is more about somebody getting paid than helping those tennants being talked about.


Ntonga shall not be a tenant but lomwe ntumbuka and nsena wamacheka kuchikangawa.

Back bone

I think this development should be scrutinised carefully otherwise it will also ban forex mind you Tobacco is a back bone of Malawi economy better to improve condtions and payments of tenants.

Little Bwana
All industrial endeavors, be they agricultural or otherwise, depend completely on the workers on the bottom. A genius once referred to them as the proletariat. Ujeni – you are right that prices need to get sorted, but tobacco prices reflect, in part, the costs bore by estate owners to produce that tobacco. Estate owners are getting away with paying hard working and deserving tenants too little, with no provisions for a healthy existence while they break their backs (housing, water, sanitation, and a decent one or two things). Raising the standard of living of tenants will inflate the value of… Read more »

As long as Malawi economy relies on Tobacco this is a mere talk and simply a show to impress ILO and eat their allowances but on the ground tenancy system will never stop bcoz other alternatives are too costly for farmers resulting to less or no profit at all. Lets just fight to have better working conditions or a policy for the tenants and enforce it.

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